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Posts Tagged ‘confession’

A prayer for Trinity Sunday reflecting on Matthew 28: 16 -20

Out of our ordinary, everyday lives,
you have gathered us here, Holy God,
to this time of worship,
to this time of praise.

We join with angels and archangels
and all the company of the saints
to bless you,
to listen for your Word,
to immerse ourselves in your grace,
in your love.

Open our eyes,
our hearts,
our minds
to your presence with us.

Take the chaos of the world
that has found its way into our hearts —
speak your Word
and give order and form and new creation.

Take the failures and defeats,
the guilt and the shame
that bind our spirits —
speak your Word
and set us free.

Take our longings for your goodness
to shape our lives, this community,
the hurting world —
speak your Word
and infuse us with
your courage and
your hope and
your love.

Then, awaken us to your Holy Spirit
who is making all things new,
even us.

We ask in Jesus’ name
who sends us out to speak
love and mercy and grace
to those who are waiting
longing
hoping
for a sign
that they are not alone,
that you are a God of love,
that you are a Saviour who knows their name,
that the Holy Spirit is leading them home.

Amen.

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A sermon based on John 20: 19-23

The very first worship service of the Christian Church took place in the evening of the first Easter Sunday. The gospel of John says that the disciples were gathered “in the house”. All the earliest churches were house churches. The followers of Jesus would gather in someone’s home. They would tell the stories of Jesus; they would share the meal as Jesus had given it to them; they would pray together. That was the shape of their worship.

As John tells it, the first worship service wasn’t much of a service at all. There were no announcements about upcoming fundraisers and programmes. Even though it was Easter, there were no special anthems sung by the choir. The worship leader didn’t say, “Christ is risen!” and the people didn’t respond, “He is risen indeed!” There were no joyful shouts of “Alleluia!” In fact, the congregation seemed to be having trouble getting past the Prayer of Confession.

That morning, some of the women had brought news of having found the tomb empty. They told of messengers telling them that Jesus had been raised from the dead. Mary said that she had actually seen Jesus and that he had talked with her. He had told her he was “ascending to the Father”, whatever that might mean. However, when the disciples gathered that evening, they locked the doors behind them.

They were afraid of the Judeans, the religious authorities. They were troubled. They were troubled not just by events in the world around them; they were troubled in their own hearts and minds. You can imagine that they were still reeling from the loss and the grief of Jesus’ death just a few days previous to this. They were confused about the reports from the women at Jesus’ tomb. I may be reading too much into it, but they were probably enveloped with a sense of failure and guilt and shame for having deserted Jesus. William Willimon called this, “the church of the sweaty palms and shaky knees and firmly bolted door. . .  All who were there had gotten an “F” in following Jesus. (You Call This A Church?)

The worship service seemed to have stalled there. They couldn’t get past the Prayer of Confession.

Then, suddenly, unexpectedly, Jesus shows up. He pronounces the “Assurance of Pardon”, the “Assurance of Grace”. He says, “Peace be with you.”  He could have said, “You guys really messed up.” He could have said, “Shame on you. I thought we were friends. Where were you when I needed you?” He didn’t. He said, “Peace be with you.”

He showed them the wounds in his side and hands. Then, he said it again, “Peace be with you.” The disciples were experiencing everything except peace and Jesus offers them this great gift of God’s mercy and grace.

He offers it not just in the first church service on the first Easter. He offers it to us every Sunday. We gather together and we bring with us the trouble that we have been carrying all week long. Most of the time we keep the trouble locked behind the closed doors of our hearts. We keep it hidden, but it is still there.

There’s trouble in the world — in the streets of London, England; in the refugee camps in the Sudan; in the sea between North Korea and Japan; in the Arctic where the ice cap is melting at accelerated rates.

There’s trouble in this neighbourhood where people are grieving the death of someone they love and parents are worried about the drug addictions of their children; and young people search for a reason to live.

There’s trouble in our own hearts and minds: the fears and worries; the regrets and sense of failure; the guilt and shame that haunt our souls.

We bring all that with us into worship. In the Prayer of Confession, we tell the truth about it to God.

Some churches no longer have a prayer of confession in their worship services. “That’s too negative,” they say. “We don’t want to make people feel bad. People come to church to feel good.”

The point of the Prayer of Confession is not to make people feel bad. The point of the Prayer of Confession is to make a space where we can tell the truth about the troubles that makes us afraid. It gives you a place where you can tell the truth about the things that you have done that cannot be made right. It gives you a place to speak the guilt and shame that is crippling your soul.

Together, we tell the truth and we offer all of it to our crucified and risen Lord. Then, we listen. We listen for his offer of forgiveness, he release from the burden, his “Peace be with you.”

The Prayer of Confession proclaims: You don’t have to keep carrying your guilt. You don’t have to keep letting fear drive your life. You don’t have to let shame hold you in its grip. Failure doesn’t need to turn to into a victim. Jesus went to hell and back to free you from all that. With grace more powerful than death, God takes you old life and gives you a new one. You can begin again, in a different place. You can move down a different path. You are no longer a victim. You are no longer “guilty”. You are forgiven and graced and redeemed and made new and set free.

I read once about a prison chaplain who had on his desk a framed photograph of a Christmas pageant. There were angels in white robes, holding candles and bringing “good news of great joy”. There were the shepherds kneeling and looking like they were frightened. Except, the characters in the photograph were not children as we are used to seeing in Christmas pageants. The shepherds and angels in this photo were rough looking men. They were convicts — convicted of murder and violent crimes; criminals serving time in jail. Yet, there they were, men who had been transformed by Christ, acting out the story of the birth of Jesus. When the chaplain was asked why he kept the photograph on his desk, he said, “It reminds me of the awesome power of God to change us, to set us free, to give us new life.” (William WillimonPeople Don’t Change — Do They?”)

We proclaim that truth every Sunday. Sometimes you will believe it. Sometimes, you will be glad and you will worship Jesus and you will find your way into the new life he offers. Sometimes, you will hear the gospel and you will doubt it. You will say with Thomas, “Unless I can touch Jesus’ wounds, I won’t believe that a new beginning is possible.”

What do you do when you are in that space? You keep showing up, Sunday by Sunday. You “practice resurrection”. You practice resurrection until you experience resurrection in your life. You do the slow work of making a space where God can work: you tell “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” as best you can. You confess the trouble, the mess, the fears and the doubts. Then, you wait for the risen Christ to show up and say, “Peace be with you.”

That’s why we share the peace of Christ every week. We practise with our voices and with our bodies the peace that Christ gives. We practise living into what Jesus says is God’s own truth about our lives. We practise trusting that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in our lives too, forgiving sin, making all things new. We practise until, one day, Jesus enters the locked doors of our spirits. Then, we know we are forgiven. We know we have received the underserved mercy and grace of God. You know God’s peace is setting is setting you free and you can begin again. Thanks be to God.

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Bread of Life,
the Resurrection,
the Way,
the Truth:
with these names we praise you.

In such naming and praising
we set ourselves under your Truth.
In such naming and praising,
we set ourselves on your Way.
Then, we find that you are indeed
the Resurrection who leads us to new life.
You renew our strength
You send us out
as ambassadors of your grace and love.

For all your blessings,
so extravagantly given,
we praise your holy name.

Lord, our God,
you have made us
to live in communion with you.
You have promised that you
will be our strength,
our refuge,
a very present help in times of trouble.
You have promised that in company with Jesus
we shall find peace that passes understanding,
abundant life,
hope for the journey.

You know the questions
that fill our fears,
the worries
that cloud our sense of your presence with us.

We turn to you with them.
We ask you to take them.
Bless them with your powerful, transforming grace.
Break their grip on our hearts and minds.
Then give us your life and truth
so we may move into this week
full of courage
full of you.   Amen.

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Blessed be your name, God of Life:
you have made this world and placed us in it.
We live and love and work and play in your good creation.

Blessed by your name, God of Hope:
when we destroy your good creation,
you move to rescue and redeem it,
surprising us with newness we did not expect.

Blessed be your name, God of Love:
you invite us into the life of your Son, Jesus,
to dance to the rhythms of your grace.

Wake us up to your presence, O God,
alive
active
powerfully creative
giving life that is stronger than death.

Give us eyes to see your reconciling work
and ears to hear your invitation to join in it
and hearts that turn away from the ways that do not give life.

Nudge us toward your holy mystery
and give us courage to trust your risky Way.

We ask these things in the name of Jesus
your Word made flesh
dwelling among us full of grace and truth;
and through the power of your Holy Spirit,
blowing where it will
with the energies of the age to come. Amen.

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God of the new creation in Christ,
God of new beginnings,
we come to you this day
in daring hope
That you can begin again in us.

Redeem us from our slavery to fear and anxiety;
rescue us from pride and jealousy;
restore us to the healing mission of your Holy Spirit;
renew in a a passion for your work.

We set our lives within your renewing grace.
By your Holy Spirit,
forgive us,
revive us
reshape us
in the image of your Son Jesus,
for we would serve him
to whom we owe our life
our salvation
our hope.

 

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Lord Jesus,
by the power of your Holy Spirit,
you have gone into our villages and cities
summoning us
gathering us into your new community of truth and love.

And we have come to follow you
such as we are —
some of us cannot see how you could ever use our lives in your kingdom;
some of us are paralyzed with fear or grief
some of us carry deep wounds that time does not heal;
some of us are lost and cannot find our way forward or home.

Have mercy on us.
Look on us with compassion
and shepherd us out of our helplessness.

Then, let us receive your claim upon our lives with gladness
and hear your summons to newness with obedient spirits.
Rule our hearts and our lives
so that we may work your harvest
wherever you send us
by the power of your Holy Spirit.

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A prayer for the Baptism of our Lord Sunday, based on Isaiah 42 and Matthew 3

Spirit-bathed Christ,
you have summoned us to join you in your holy work.
You are present in our neighbourhood,
setting free those who have been bruised
by hurt or sorrow or sin.
You are present in our city,
noticing those whom others regard as
small and insignificant.
You are present,
setting things right.
This is good and holy work
you have given us to do.
Summon us again —
from our pre-occupation with petty issues;
from our fear that we don’t have the resources we need
to be your people here
in this time and in this place;
from our blindness to your glory
all around us.
Open our hearts and ears
so that we hear again
the voice from heaven that calls us,
“Beloved”
“My delight”.
Bathe us in those healing words.
Let them fill our life together —
Full and overflowing
till we become a stream of love and mercy
in this neighbourhood,
in this city,
in this place
and in this time.
We offer ourselves
in the name of Jesus,
the one whose servanthood has saved us. Amen.

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